February 21, 2017

Details on open-to-the-public Miami celebration of the late, great Edwin Pope; plus the magic of Liberty City youth football (with video), Greg Cote at age 7, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is TUESDAY, February 21. Hope you all enjoyed your Presidents Day, to the degree that's still possible in 2017. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Whiteside column, your Marlins-expectations verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

EpopeDETAILS: CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF EDWIN POPE IN A PUBLIC EVENT IN MIAMI: A public celebration in honor of the late, great Miami Herald sports columnist Edwin Pope has been set for next Tuesday, Feb. 28, from 7 to 10 p.m. at The Clevelander bar inside Marlins Park. A private ceremony was held this past weekend in Okeechobee for Pope, who passed away Jan. 19 at age 88, but this will be the first event in his honor held in Miami and open to the public. The celebration is free and will include an open bar and light food. However, only a limited number of invitees may be chosen from those who RSVP and describe what Pope meant to them in a Herald career that began in 1967 through his retirement as full-time sports columnist in 2003. RSVPs should be emailed as soon as possible to: edwinpopememorial@gmail.com. The event is being hosted by two of Edwin's biggest fans, ESPN Radio's Dan Le Batard and the Herald's Greg Cote. Hey. That's me!

NEW DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHTS THE MAGIC OF LIBERTY CITY YOUTH FOOTBALL: I was pleased to interview Miami icon Luther Campbell (Uncle Luke, pictured) yesterday for my new column to help promote a forthcoming Libcity Lukedocumentary film about the Liberty City Optimist youth football program he helped found more than 20 years ago. It has produced current NFL stars such as Antonio Brown, Amari Cooper, Devonta Freeman, Teddy Bridgewater and Duke Johnson and continues to be a thriving community focal point on Saturdays during football season. I wrote about this now because the film, Rivals: The Boom Squad, is premiering Wednesday night at 10:30 on the Viceland cable channel. Click Viceland.com and click channel finder to track down where you can see it. There also will be a live local showing of the 45-minute film on Sunday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 N.W. 22nd Ave., Miami. A 30-second trailer is presented directly below. The Liberty City Warriors, Gwen Cherry Bulls and other teams thrive because they are needed in a city that can be a tough place for kids to grow up, too often under the threat of gun violence. It is about more than football. As Campbell told us, "Our purpose is to save lives." Click on The Miracle of Liberty City to ready my full column.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / TUE 2-21-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins spring training, 9:30 a.m.: Another workday in Jupiter, with spring games starting next weekend.

2. South Carolina at Gators, 7 p.m.: No. 13 UF hosts 'Cocks in SEC men's game.

3. Delray Beach Open, 11 a.m.: Second-tier men's ATP event continues.

Other select recent columns: Is Whiteside the Whale Heat Needs?, my new one, surveying Heat at the all-star break. French Embassy and Cuban Smuggling: Play Ball!, from the start of Marlins spring training. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

GREG COTE, AGE 7: In the autobiographical song I'll soon post on social media, called "The Ballad of 1440," there is a lyric that refers to "Tonka tanks on a pebble drive." Well, lo and behold, looking through scrapbooks, I unearthed an old photo (very) of me around age 7 playing with said tank. Wish I still had it. I leave you with that ghostly photo today...

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Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 16, 2017

Trump keeps messing with Miami, but when he threatens to screw up Loria selling Marlins, he's gone TOO FAR!; plus Branden Albert, Shane Battier, 3 Dolphins honored, Fish farm barren, 'The Ballad of 1440,' your Villain Purge verdict & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mepic1) It is FRIDAY, February 17. We're about to put out a new song, "The Ballad of 1440" (pictured right), an autobiographical tale of a little boy in Hollywood, Florida who grew up to have an unexpected life. Click on image to see larger version. Will post a video of song on social media later this month. Stay tuned. 2) Our Miami Dolphins book on club's first half-century makes a great gift for any Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Villain purge: Loria-LeBron poll, Marlins World Series odds as spring training begins & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

On Branden Albert, Shane Battier: Weird: Media inaccurately reported Dolphins had waived veteran tackle Branden Albert. Or was it inaccurate? Evidently team decided to release Albert then changed its mind and will try to trade him. In any case, Laremy Tunsil will take over at left tackle. Congrats: Heat hire poplar ex-player Shane Battier as director of basketball development and analytics, and there is speculation he may be groomed as Pat Riley's eventual replacement.

HEY TRUMP, KEEP YOUR FINGERS OFF MIAMI SPORTS!: First Donald Trump's ownership of the golf course caused the controversy that was among the factors that imperiled the future of annual PGA Tour event at Doral. Then as president, Trump messed with the Florida Panthers' hierarchy by nominating Cats owner Vincent Viola to be Secretary of the Army. (Who knew there was a Secretary of the Army!?) Viola accepted, then later withdrew from consideration, citing business ties. Now, the Trump Administration reportedly is considering nominating Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to be U.S. Ambassador to France. Huh? Whu!? Is the qualification because Jeff once owned the Montreal Expos, and they speak a lot of French up there? Or maybe because The Donald can picture him wearing a beret? Or is it that Ambassador to France is the standard perk that comes with a $125,000 campaign contribution? In Franceany case, this is just Trump Loriabizarre. Think about it. The Kushner family -- which is directly tied to the White House because son Jared Kushner is Ivanka Trump's husband and thus the president's son-in-law -- is negotiating with Loria to buy the Marlins for a reported $1.6 billion. But now the family says it will cease efforts to buy the club if Loria is nominated for the ambassadorship. "Our family has been friends with Jeff Loria for over 30 years, been in business together, and even owned a AAA baseball team together," Joseph Meyer, Kushner's son-in-law, said in a statement. "Although the Kushners have made substantial progress in discussions for us to purchase the Marlins, recent reports suggest that Mr. Loria will soon be nominated by the President to be Ambassador to France. If that is true, we do not want this unrelated transaction to complicate that process and will not pursue it. The Kushners remain interested in purchasing a team and would love to buy the Marlins at another time." Whoa now. Let us get this straight. A family with direct ties to Trump wants to buy the Marlins. But Trump possibly throwing this goofy little gift at Loria could screw up the whole deal. So strange. Does all of South Florida want Loria to sell the Marlins ASAP? Oui, oui! Hopefully this Ambassador to France story is short-lived, because it is ridiculous. I mean, are we to believe Loria is going to walk away from a potential $1.6 billion windfall because he'd rather be dealing with terrorism concerns in Paris? C'mon! Jeffrey, please put out the inevitable statement that says how flattered you are to be considered for the position yada yada yada but no thanks. Then get back to selling the Marlins so Trump can set up that direct hotline to Don Mattingly in the dugout to make executive orders on pitching changes.

Pff101THREE DOLPHINS, OTHER NOTABLE NAMES ON PFF'S LIST OF TOP 101 PLAYERS OF 2016: Pro Football Focus' Top 101 players of 2016 (because a Top 100 would be too ordinary) includes a trio of Dolphins in RB Jay Ajayi 31st, pass-rusher Cam Wake 45th and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh 52nd. In the AFC East only the Patriots (of course) have more -- five guys led by overall No. 1 Tom Brady. Bills and Jets have one each. Buffalo's guy is bully-guard Richie Incognito (98th), one of three ex-Dolphins to make it along with Bucs cornerback Brent Grimes (43rd) and Giants rusher Olivier Vernon (71st). Vernon is one of four ex-Hurricanes on the list along with Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell (24th), Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (58th) and Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham (92nd). Other notables: Chargers rusher and St. Thomas Aquinas alum Joey Bosa (32nd) and Colts receiver and ex-FIU Panther T.Y. Hilton (54th).

BraxtongarrettTHE FISH FARM IS BARREN: Trading away top prospects has withered the Miami Marlins' minor-league talent level -- the farm gone barren -- and the latest proof comes today with Baseball America's list of 2017 Top 100 Prospects. Check out the NL East. The Braves have eight on the list, ranked 3rd, 11th, 37th, 48th, 66th, 67th, 77th and 78th. The Phillies have four, ranked 12th, 17th, 41st and 80th. The Mets have three, ranked 8th, 71st and 100th. The Nationals have two, ranked 13th and 52nd. The Marlins? Only one. Lefty pitcher Braxton Garrett (pictured) is ranked 76th and not projected for MLB arrival until 2020. The home farm has empty rows and dry crops. Not good, Fish fans. Not good. 

Poll result: Villain purge: Loria selling tops beating LeBron: We asked which of these 2017 possibilities should please Miami sports fans more, and it was Jeffrey Loria finally selling the Marlins with 61.9 percent and LeBron James ousted from playoffs by Heat at 38.1%.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / FRI 2-17-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Marlins spring training, 1:15 p.m.: Full squad is on field for first time this spring up in Jupiter.

2. Panthers at Anaheim, 10 p.m.: Cats have won two straight as they chase that No. 8 East seed.

3. Boat show, 10 a.m.: Miami International Boat Show continues at Miami Marine Stadium.

4. That about does it. Another light day.

Select recent columns: Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, the latest, on how Heat's recent run has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported possible sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

 

February 15, 2017

Villain purge! Which would be most pleasing: Heat beating LeBron in playoffs or Loria finally selling Marlins? Poll. Last day to vote; plus Heat's franchise value, UM's Njoku to Dolphins, Series odds as Fish begin spring training, Hot Button Daily & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Cotevalentine1) It is WEDNESDAY, February 15. Hope you all had a lovely Valentine's Day! Pictured is something the radio show  made up, with me as Cupid. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to learn me or to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Loria selling Marlins column, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings, your own Heat MVP verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

Heat's NBA market value: Forbes' 19th annual NBA franchise valuations, out today, show the Miami Heat the 10th most valuable club at 1.35 billion -- nearly exactly the leaguewide average of $1.36B. The New York Knicks are valued No. 1 at $3.3 billion. No wonder they can afford all those security guards to oust Charles Oakley!

Kiper mock has Njoku to Dolphins: Former Hurricanes tight end David Njoku goes to Dolphins with draft's 22nd overall pick, says ESPN's Mel Kiper today in his second mock draft. That's be a dynamic pick at a need position, but I still defense is the likelier play with Miami's No. 1 pick. 

Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View: The Heat endured a second straight loss Monday at home to Orlando. Nevertheless, the 13 straight wins before that has Miami poised to be buyers at this month's trade deadline as the possibility looms of a first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James and Cleveland. Click on Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View for my latest column.

Loria LebronVILLAIN-PURGE: WHAT WOULD BE BIGGER? BEATING LEBRON IN PLAYOFFS OR LORIA FINALLY LEAVING?: Which do we want more? Which would be bigger? What would please South Florida most? Would it be the Heat meeting the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first-round of the NBA playoffs and (against odds) eliminating turncoat LeBron James? Or would it be wildly unpopular Jeffrey Loria finally selling the Miami Marlins? Unfortunately, there is no choice for "both!" in this poll. You must decide. Take a dip in our poll and vote now.

MarlinsMARLINS' SPRING-OPENING WORLD SERIES ODDS: Two teams in the NL East are projected to be good. Two teams are seen as really bad. In the middle: the Marlins as the team's 25th season slowly unfurls this week with the start of spring training in Jupiter -- amid sweet reports that Jeffrey Loria has an agreement in place to sell the club. (Click on Loria: The End Of An Error for that column). World Series odds are via Bovada. In the division it's Nationals at 10-1 (tie 4th), Mets 18-1 (8th), Marlins 75-1 (tie 19th), Braves 100-1 (tie 23rd) and Phillies (150-1, tie 25th, or last). Marlins were 40-1 to end last season; blame the dropoff largely on Jose Fernandez's tragic death. Overall, Red Sox and Cubs begin as co-betting favorites at 9-2, followed by Indians at 8-1.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / WED 2-15-17: What events on today's sports calendar should interest SoFla most:

1. Heat at Houston, 8 p.m.: Miami tries to end two-game skid and enter All-Star break on the upbeat.

2. Georgia Tech at Hurricanes, 8 p.m.: Top 25 remains elusive for UM men as team hosts ACC game.

3. Panthers at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.: Cats, five points off playoff pace, must begin to make a move.

4. Marlins spring training, 9:30 a.m.: Partial team hits field for second day of work in Jupiter.

5. No, that'll about do it for today.

Select recent columns: Surge Has Heat Buyers, LeBron In View, the latest, on how Heat's hot streak (even with two straight losses) has Miami poised to be buyers at trade deadline as possibility of first-round playoff meeting with LeBron James looms. Also: Loria: The End Of An Error, on team's reported likely sale. Spoelstra Leads the Parade, on the man at the wheel of recent long win streak. Give the Devils Their Due, on Belichick and Brady. Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

February 03, 2017

Me and Dwyane Wade, Twitter and wine; plus our Falcons-Patriots prediction, the new Super Bowl With a Smirk & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is FRIDAY, February 3. A Herald Sports Facebook page has debuted. Click HERE. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hurricanes' recruiting bounty, latest Super Bowl With a Smirk, The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (50 games), your Barkley-LeBron beef verdict & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

ME AND DWYANE WADE, TWITTER AND WINE: I love Twitter. I do. One of the reasons why metastasized yesterday with my Tweet shown below and Dwyane Wade's response right below it. What I Tweeted was admittedly snarky. Dwyane didn't like it. His NBA prime was defined by greatness. He still is very good, but very good isn't great. From a basketball standpoint, I'll defend that Tweet all day. But from a personal standpoint? The Tweet was a bit mean-spirited, which I don't like to be. I felt bad I may have hurt Wade's feelings, so after his Tweet I Tweeted: "Love @DwyaneWade & always been big supporter as he knows. Just havin' a lil' fun. Very nice wine btw. Blend, but w/ mouthfeel of smooth cab." And of course I got beat up for that because it was seen as a retreat from my initial Tweet. Bottom line? I do not regret the initial Tweet but I do regret that Wade -- whom I like and respect very much -- took it as a cheap shot at sort of a fragile point in his career. Postscript: The wine really was pretty good. God bless Twitter.     

OUR OFFICIAL SUPER BOWL PREDICTION (SORRY, ROGER GOODELL): Sunday’s game in Houston marks only the sixth time in 51 Super Bowls that the matchup has been the team that led the NFL in scoring (Falcons) vs. the team that allowed the fewest points (Patriots). A key difference is, New England is as mighty on offense as it is stingy on D, while Atlanta’s defense, though Sbnebetter than it was, cannot claim to be the equal of what Matt Ryan gets done. As a writer, I think I subconsciously root not for a particular team but for the best story to tell. Here, Super Bowl LI wins no matter the result. Either Atlanta reigns as champion for the first time in its 51-year history. Or we get a trophy presentation that might be even more riveting than the game if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is handing the Vince Lombardi Trophy to a New England franchise he socked so hard over Deflategate — a franchise feeling it was wronged. So "best story" is a tie here. But "best team" is not. As mentioned, Bill Belichick has a complete team that can beat you with or without the ball, while the big-scoring but more lopsided Falcons have a young, somewhat unreliable defense that savvy old Tom Brady will find a way to pick apart. Intangibles also tend to come into play on this biggest stage, and the contrast there greatly favors New England as well. The been-there/won-that Patriots have built a modern dynasty on this stage, while Atlanta — its only other Super Bowl appearance in 1998 and last in the playoffs in 2012 — cannot know they’ll be ready for this. The game might swing importantly very early. Atlanta has scored a touchdown on its first possession in eight games in a row. Keeping that streak alive will give the Birds instant confidence, but if it ends there could be a fast feeling of "uh oh." Ryan is used to leading. He isn’t used to trailing. And certainly not against Belichick and Brady. In a Super Bowl. I think he’ll have that feeling on Sunday. And I think I’m looking forward to the awkward drama of the postgame trophy presentation a lot more than Roger Goodell is. My pick: New England 31, Atlanta 23. Click on Super Bowl Gem for the full predictions capsule.

SUPER BOWL WITH A SMIRK: PATRIOTS TRADEMARK FRAUDULENCE, GAGA'S SHOE, MORTARS, FAKE MERCHANDISE: Super Bowl With a Smirk is back with our fourth of five daily columns needling the self-important NFL and the excess and gravitas of its big game.

Smirk Sb51OK, this is war! The New England Patriots, who have never had a perfect season, have somehow won a trademark on the phrase "Perfect Season."

It's an outrage -- the most egregious "alternative fact" yet. It would be like Greg Cote trademarking the phrase "Pulitzer Winner."

Smirk today is calling upon Don Shula and the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- the only team that did have a perfect season -- to foment into an angry if aging mob and picket outside Sunday's Patriots-Falcons Super Bowl in Houston.

The Patriots were undefeated and untied before losing the Super Bowl nine years ago. They deserve a trademark on "Almost Perfect Season." Or perhaps on "Almost Perfect Cheaters."

Instead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December granted the Patriots-owning Kraft Group legal rights to the phrases "Perfect Season" and "19-0," ESPN's Darren Rovell reports.

XaverianIt took eight years for the Kraft Group's petition to finally be approved. The loophole the Pats used to justify deserving Perfect Season was to license the phrase to a Massachusetts high-school football association to commemorate Xaverian High's 24 straight wins.

The Dolphins once filed to trademark "17-0" and "Perfectville" but eventually gave up the fight.

Now New England legally owns what Miami earned on the field, but, galling and absurd as that is, we all know better, and about this I'm not Smirking:

Perfect Season belongs to only one team in NFL history, and it sure ain't the Patriots.

(*) Lady Gaga met the media Thursday in Houston, and declined to pick a winning team, saying, "I'm going to write it down and put it in my shoe." Gaga is headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show Sponsored by Smirk's Second-Favorite Cola.

(*) National-anthem singer Luke Bryan also met the media. The Falcons fan from Leesburg, Ga., blatantly did the limbo to compliment the Patriots so as not to hurt his sales in the Northeast.

Madden17(*) Spoiler alert! The Patriots will beat the Falcons 27-24 on Sunday. Book it. Bank it. Because EA Sports' Madden 17 video game played it and says it. The Madden game is 9-4 on previous SB picks, which strikes Smirk as decent, not great.

(*) The group MVPindex took umbrage at Smirk's Wednesday suggestion they might have been drunk when ranking Julian Edelman's social media impact greater than Tom Brady's. Based on criteria including how many times followers engage with a post, "Edelman does it better," said spokesperson Amber Moore. "So we aren't drunk."

(*) Stadium security precautions will be tight Sunday. Prohibited items that fans may not carry in include umbrellas, lasers, signs and 60-millimeter hand-held mortars.

(*) Two notable Houstonians, former president George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara, ages 92 and 91, will conduct the pregame coin toss. There's a joke there somewhere, but some things are out of bounds even for Smirk.

(*) Counterfeit merchandise update: If that pricey Super Bowl jacket you bought has no logos whatsoever and looks eerily like a 1980s Members Only jacket, it might not be official Super Bowl apparel.

Odouls(*) Finally, our Super Bowl Party Tip du Jour: Make your Super Bowl party alcohol-free this year. It'll save you the bother of having to host a Super Bowl party next year.

Click Smirk I, Smirk II and Smirk III for this week's previous Smirks.

HOT BUTTON DAILY / 2-3-17: What events on the Friday, Feb. 3 sports calendar interest South Florida fans most:

1. Anaheim at Panthers, 7:30 p.m.: Cats chasing eighth seed and playoffs.

2. U.S. soccer vs. Jamaica, 7 p.m.: Last friendly before men's World Cup qualifying.

3. Might be time to retire this short-lived new blog feature after a second straight slowwwww day in sports.

Select recent columns: Greatness Times Four, on Lebron, Brady, Serena and Tiger. Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 26, 2017

Analyzing Canes' 2017 football schedule game-by-game, predicting season record; plus new 'Back In My Day' (Worn Look), The Luddite's Heat MVP Standings, Miami flavor to this Super Bowl & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Mtm1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 26. R.I.P., Mary Tyler Moore (pictured), gone at 80. 2) A new Miami Herald Facebook page debuted this week. Click HERE to visit. 3) Cubs win World Series! Trump Elected President! Heat win fifth straight! 4) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century (and it includes a lot of vintage stuff from the late great Edwin Pope) makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 5) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Hot Button Top 10, Falcons-Patriots Super Bowl, Montoya wins Miami Race of Champions & more. 6) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, Instagram, Periscope and Snapchat.

LeBron, Serena, Brady, Tiger: Appreciate them while you can: Each of those all-time greats is on stage this week, the perfect time to appreciate them all. Click on Greatness Times Four for my newest column.

Miami in the Super Bowl, Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Miami In the Super Bowl, on the Miami-tie guys playing in this one. Home Run For Montoya, Miami, from the Race of Champions held here. Thank You, Edwin Pope, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald icon. Also: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? When Playoffs Become the Norm Again. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile. An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

SmokeBREAKING DOWN CANES' 2017 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE GAME-BY-GAME: The challenge here is that, with quarterback Brad Kaaya gone a year early for the NFL Draft, we can't yet know the impact that will have on a UM team that finished 9-4 and ranked No. 20 last season after crushing West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Who'll be the new QB and how good will he be? But this we do know: Our faith in Mark Richt, our faith in Manny Diaz and that young defense, and an incoming recruiting class that could end up ranked in top-10 nationally all lead us to believe Miami will be as good as last season and more likely better. UM might very well be an underdog in only one game -- Sept. 16 at Florida State -- although an Oct. 28 trip to North Carolina and a Nov. 4 visit by Virginia Tech will be major challenges. Taking care of business in all the other games and winning at least one of those three is the path to the elusive 10-win season. Handle the rest of the schedule and win two of those three and you're talking major bowl and maybe a shot at College Football Playoff contention. That's optimistic with the QB flux and all, but optimism is merited right now. Breaking down the schedule game by game:

Sept. 2 vs. Bethune-Cookman -- An all-but-certain win for the Canes and a soft opening for whomever is the new quarterback. UM is 3-0 all-time vs. Larry Little's old school from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. B-C was 4-6 last year, and Miami won 45-0 when schools last met to open the 2015 season. Estimated Win Likelihood (EWL): 95%

Sept. 9 at Arkansas State -- Another very likely win, but a big step up from Bethune and not an opponent to be taken lightly. Arkansas State went 7-1 in Sun Belt last year and was 8-5 overall including a nice 31-13 win over UCF In the AutoNation Cure Bowl. UM leads all-time series 2-0 including a 41-20 win in 2014. EWL: 80%

Sept. 16 at Florida State -- Miami will be a clear underdog, on the road, against a nemesis that has beaten the Canes seven straight times including 20-19 last year. FSU now leads all-time series 30-29. Noles finished 10-3 and ranked No. 8 in '16 after a thrilling 33-32 win over Michigan in the Orange Bowl game. This will be first time these ACC state rivals have met in the season's opening month since 2009. EWL: 35%.

Sept. 23 vs. Toledo -- A very likely win, although Toledo was a bowl team last year after going 9-4 including 6-2 in the Mid-American Conference. Miami beat the Rockets in the school's only previous meeting way back in 1987. EWL: 80%.

Sept. 29 at Duke -- A return to the scene of that eight-lateral, kickoff-return Miami miracle in 2015. Friday game could be a challenging roadie, but one that should find UM expected to win. Blue Devils were 4-8 last season and 1-7 in ACC. Miami is 12-2 all-time in this ACC series, with three straight wins including 40-21 last season. EWL: 65%.

Oct. 12 vs. Georgia Tech -- Following the bye week, Canes will be expected to win this challenging Thursday ACC home date, although Yellow Jackets were 9-4 and a bowl winner last season. Teams are 11-11 all-time, though UM has won seven of past eight meetings including a 35-21 victory last season. EWL: 60%

Oct. 21 vs. Syracuse -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over Orangemen. Canes lead all-time series 15-7 including five straight wins, although this will be these teams' first meeting since 2003 back in the BIg East days. 'Cuse finished 4-8 last year and 2-6 in ACC. EWL: 75%.

Oct. 28 at North Carolina -- Tough roadie poses UM's biggest loss-threat since FSU. Miami trails all-time series 11-9 and has lost past two, 20-13 last season and 59-21 on last visit to Chapel Hill in 2015. Tar Heels went 5-3 in ACC last year and 8-5 overall with loss to Stanford in Sun Bowl. EWL: 50%.

Nov. 4 vs. Virginia Tech -- A loss-threat and a challenging test UM should be glad is at home. Miami leads all-time rivalry 20-14 but is only 5-9 in past 14 meetings, including a 37-16 loss last year. Hokies were 6-2 in ACC last year and finished 10-4 overall and ranked No. 16 after beating Arkansas in the Belk Bowl. EWL: 55%.

Nov. 11 vs. Notre Dame -- Fighting Irish's first visit to Miami since 1989 is biggest "event" game on schedule other than FSU. Miami trails all-time series 18-7-1, with four losses in a row including 30-27 in South Bend last year. Leprechauns sank to 4-8 last year but were 10-3 in '15, so it's hard to know how good ND will be. But Canes, at home, figure to be favored. EWL: 65%.

Nov. 18 vs. Virginia -- UM should be a heavy home favorite over a Cavaliers team that was miserable last season: 1-7 in the ACC and 2-10 overall. Canes lead all-time series 8-6 including two wins a row with last year's 34-14 victory at Virginia. EWL: 85%.

Nov. 24 at Pitt -- A Friday roadie closes the regular season and likely will see Miami favored. Pitt was a credible 8-5 with a bowl loss last season, Canes always seem to have Pitt's number. UM leads all-time series 25-10-1 including a 51-28 rout last year, and also has won the past six straight trips to Pittsburgh. EWL: 55%.

Predicted final regular-season record: 10-2.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (MIDSEASON/40 GAMES): Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and offer a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 15-30 on four straight wins after Monday night's home upset  of Golden State, here's The Luddite's ninth installment, with 40-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (45 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,315

2. Goran Dragic (2)            1,099

3. Tyler Johnson (3)             870

4. James Johnson (4)           779

5. Dion Waiters (6)              538

6. Josh Richardson (5)         483

7. Rodney McGruder (7)     428

8. Willie Reed (9)               369

9. Justise Winslow (8)        355

10. Wayne Ellington (10)    354

Others: Luke Babbitt 259, Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 231, Udonis Haslem 61, Okaro White 10.

LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': THE WORN LOOK: Enjoy!

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 21, 2017

Remembering an epic life and personal hero: Edwin Pope, 1928-2017, R.I.P.; plus NFL Championship Game picks, Heat/Whiteside collect further disrespect, Women's March, Race Of Champions & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is SATURDAY, JANUARY 21. Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- and it includes a lot of vintage Edwin Pope -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it-isn't-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Edwin Pope dies, Kiper's mock draft for Dolphins, two ex-Marlins make Hall, cowardly Goodell, your Super Bowl preference, BIMD video (The Circus) & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Women's March on Washington: Much respect to the hundreds of thousands participating today in the Women's March in D.C., a grass-roots stand-up for freedoms and rights. Proud to say my wife, and many others I know, are among them.

Race Of Champions: The ROC series is in the U.S. for first time today in Miami, with stars from NASCAR, IndyCar and Formula One all racing together inside Marlins Park. I like big events and am a curiosity seeker, so I'll be there columnizing.

The Death of a Wordsmith, other select recent columns: Thank You, Edwin Pope, my latest column, on the death of a friend, mentor and Miami Herald legend. Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

TO A MONUMENTAL CAREER, AN EPIC LIFE AND A CHERISHED MENTOR: THANK YOU, EDWIN POPE: [Blog note: I rarely do this. I link to columns of mine, but rarely reprint them in their entirety here in the blog. But the death of my great friend and mentor, last night at age 88, is too important to me to not share as broadly as I can. So here is my tribute column]:

Epope
The Edwin I first knew, circa mid-'70s

"I grew up reading Edwin Pope." How many generations in South Florida will be saying that, thinking it, feeling it today? I was coming of age as a sports fan who hadn’t yet discovered he was interested in writing when Pope was at the peak of his powers, and reading him kindled and sparked something in me.

What it did was give me a future, a passion, a career.

Thank you, Edwin. For your inspiration, your talent, your grace, your mentorship and your friendship.Thank you so much.

South Florida and the Miami Herald have lost a giant with the passing of Edwin Pope at age 88. Newspapering and sports journalism and the craft of putting words in just the right order have all lost a giant.

Edwin came to the Herald in 1956 in his late 20s. He was sports editor and main sports columnist from 1967 until he retired in 2003, though still writing occasionally the next several years until age and Alzheimer’s dictated otherwise. I loathe the frivolous overuse of words like "legend," but the superlative has not yet been invented that can properly describe the epic arc of Pope’s career chronicling Miami sports.

From the black and white days of Cassius Clay in the 5th Street Gym to the Heat drafting some kid named Dwyane Wade — and everything in between — Edwin was the eyes and ears for South Florida sports fans, the rhyme and the reason.

He reigned before ESPN "SportsCenter" and before the Internet changed everything, putting news and opinion everywhere, and right now, diminishing the influence of the local newspaper. He reigned when "the paper" thudded onto front lawns every morning, up and down your block, and you turned to the sports section first to see what Pope had to say.

Dan LeBatard and I tried to replace him when he left. We never had a chance. Voices are everywhere, but there is no replacing Sinatra. Pope ends an era.

I felt smarter, as a teenager, when I read Edwin. There might be a word (or three) in every column that sent me to the dictionary. I liked that. He never talked down to readers. It’s a concept that has informed my own writing.

Edwin wrote with poetic elan. He told stories. He could make the scene on a racetrack’s backstretch as interesting as the horse race itself. You smelled the hay. You closed your eyes and saw the groom mucking-out the stable.

Epope2
Edwin in his career's latter stage

Edwin also could be direct. When he wanted a column to throw a punch, it landed.

When Lou Saban abruptly left the University of Miami football team after only two years following the 1978 season to coach at West Point, the lead to Pope’s column was: "You wanted a deserter, Army? You got one."

Edwin didn’t tap-dance into a column or, in the parlance of a former editor of ours, "clear his throat." He got to it. He was concise. He didn’t overwrite, either in style or length. He valued his readers too much to waste their time.

He was like that off the page, too.

He was a gentle man, but one whose humor could be sharp, and bite.

He’d had a stormy relationship with Dolphins owner Joe Robbie, and once kidded the only thing wrong with the name of the stadium was that it wasn’t Joe Robbie Memorial Stadium. (At least I think he was kidding.)

Edwin commanded utmost respect in press boxes. He was the dean, the monarch, the legend. If the clatter got too noisy too close to deadline, Edwin eventually would raise a hand and loudly snap, "Quiet!" and the room would shut up. He didn’t have to say it twice.

You didn’t want to be a waiter who ignored Edwin once too often when he was fishing for another drink.

"What’s a man got to do to get another Heinekin around here!?!" he once stood and loudly squawked from our table in some far-flung city after some game, Southern drawl lifting into a high pitch.

Epopejoelouis
A favorite photo of his: A young Edwin Pope with boxer Joe Louis

Edwin was a drinker. May I say that? We had a good time on the many road trips we took together.

I was in the company of Edwin and more than one unnamed UM football coach as the two of them killed a 12-pack of beer hours before a game. You’d visit his hotel room and not be surprised to see a jug of red wine on ice in the bathroom sink. Once we closed down a bar in (I think) Indianapolis, stumbled out into the cold and were discussing how to go about getting a cab when it dawned on us our hotel was right in front of us.

I delighted to cover the 1992 Summer Olympics with Edwin in Barcelona, in a cramped, barracks-style dorm room we shared. After two weeks, the day before we flew out, we treated each other by taking a cab to the city’s famous nude beach to take in the sights. Why not!

Edwin was a wonderful colleague and road-trip companion of mine for 30 some years. Mostly he was a writing hero, somebody who was what I wanted to be. I have never stopped striving or falling short, or being grateful for his influence in my life and career.

His was a long, wonderful life well-led.

Thank you, Edwin. Always. Thank you.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FripixPLAYOFFS: CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: OUR PICKS FOR NFL'S SUNDAY AFC, NFC TITLE GAMES: Lots of football fans call this Sunday the single best day of the season, better even than the Super Bowl, and I expect Packers at Falcons and then Steelers at Patriots to live up to expectations. A great final four! Our 26th season of Friday Page NFL predictions in the Miami Herald saw us a robust 56.0 percent against the spread in the regular season, and we're 6-0 in the postseason after rolling a perfect 4-0 last week. Click on Championship Game Gems for my latest picks on the AFC and NFC title games. I see one game going as expected and the other not. We also offer our accompanying NFL column that today quantifies how good this final four is, historically, and how it gets the attention back where it belongs, on the field, after a weird week of drama for the NFL. Click on A Dramatic Final Four to read.

THE LIST: THIS FINAL FOUR IN THE POSTSEASON: Historically, this NFL final four includes three league giants and one interloper, as this list verifies. The franchise, head coach and quarterback records of these four teams in the postseason, listed in order of most all-time postseason wins, with total NFL championships listed in parentheses:

Team                                Franchise            Head coach                   Quarterback

Pittsburgh Steelers (6)       36-23, .610         Mike Tomlin, 8-5           Ben Roethlisberger, 13-6

Green Bay Packers (13)      34-21, .618        Mike McCarthy, 10-7       Aaron Rodgers, 9-6

New England Patriots (4)   30-19, .612         Bill Belichick, 24-10       Tom Brady, 23-9

Atlanta Falcons (0)             8-12, .400         Dan Quinn, 1-0              Matt Ryan, 2-4

HwhitesideHEAT BATTERED IN ALL-STAR VOTING, WHITESIDE SNUBBED: Hassan Whiteside collects perceived slights the way others of us collects stamps or coins, and he has added a big new one to his collection. He barely made the East frontcourt top 10 in NBA all-star voting, slotting in 10th overall after finishing eighth in the media vote, 11th by fans, and only 14th by players. Your colleagues don't respect you, bro! Get angry! Get even! No Goran Dragic in the East backcourt top 10. Starters were named Thursday. Reserves get added next week. I'd think Whiteside (pictured) will be included, but it sure isn't a given after his comeuppance in the triangular vote.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 19, 2017

HERALD LEGEND EDWIN POPE DIES AT 88: MY TRIBUTE COLUMN; plus Kiper's first '17 mock draft: Gator to Dolphins, no Kaaya; also, 2 Marlins (sort of) elected to Hall, Goodell is a coward, newest Back In My Day video, your verdict on Super Bowl matchup & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 19. I'm back up at Friday Page World Headquarters today figuring out my NFL Championship Game picks. Gonna nail 'em. 2) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century -- best-selling of all the Herald books -- makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 3) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL Final Four poll, related Tannehill column, Radio Tuesday & more. 4) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

EDWIN POPE DIES AT 88: Longtime former Miami Herald sports editor and columnist Edwin Pope died early this evening at age 88. My column on my mentor and friend: Thank You, Edwin.

NFL's Final Four through a Dolphins prism, other select recent columns: Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great?, our latest column, on NFL's final four from a Miami vantage. When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

JdavisGATORS LB JARRAD DAVIS TO DOLPHINS, SAYS KIPER: Mel Kiper's first 2017 Mock Draft for ESPN is out and he has Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis (pictured) going to Miami 22nd overall in first round. Sayeth Mel: "As a steady and reliable linebacker with a nose for the football, Davis' versatility stands out. He could play inside or outside linebacker at the next level, though he's not a guy who will get 10 sacks on the outside in a 3-4. He can be an every-down guy." I think Kiper is right on the position; LB a big need. He has two other Gators, cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, going 13th and 14 overall. He has one Seminole, running back Dalvin Cook, going 12th. Conspicuously, Kiper has zero Hurricanes going in first round. I tried to tell you to stay, Brad Kaaya, but did you listen? No! Another early Canes departure, tight end David Njoku, is much more likely than Kaaya to sneak into the first round. Click here for Mel's Mock 1.0.

TWO FORMER MARLINS PLAYERS MAKE HALL OF FAME: Nailed it! Raines, Bagwell and Pudge make the Hall of Fame. Raines and Pudge had (very brief, one-year) Marlins careers. Original post: There is little suspense to tonight's (or future) Baseball Hall of Fame announcements, thanks to Bagwellrainesbbhoftracker.com, which collects and publishes ballots that have been publicly revealed. As of today they had collected 233, or 55.2 percent -- including mine, Pudgewhich I revealed in this blog on Dec. 16. From the composite numbers we can state with certainty that, barring a shocking, aberrant swing in remaining votes, Tim Raines (running at 89.2 percent) and Jeff Bagwell (88.3%) will sail in easily above the needed 75% minimum. Some may recall Raines ended his career a Marlin in 2002. A third inductee very likely will be Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez -- a 2003 Marlin instrumental in the World Series championship -- now at 78.7%. Raines and Bagwell are pictured right and Rodriguez left. Those three likely will be the only inductees, although two others, Trevor Hoffman (72.5%) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7%), are close enough that a late surge in voting, though unlikely, could yet sweep them into Cooperstown. My ballot included all five of the players mentioned so far. The vote totals so far of the other five on my ballot: Edgar Martinez 65.4, Barry Bonds 63.8, Roger Clemens 62.9%, Manny Ramirez 24.2 and Gary Sheffield 11.7. The faces of the Steroid Era, Bonds and Clemens, are seeing their totals rise gradually and I predict they'll get in someday. Not as sure about Martinez. Very surprised by Ramirez's low total. And I'm almost alone on Sheffield, I guess. Sorry, Sheff. Not gonna happen for you.

THE LIST: EX-MARLINS PLAYERS IN THE HALL OF FAME: Four future Hall of Famers have worn a Marlins uniform. The short list doubled yesterday, although all four men played only a brief portion of their careers in Miami. The sort-of Marlins in Cooperstown, ranked in order of the percentage of career games played with Marlins:

Player                        Games with Marlins        With Miami    Inducted

C Pudge Rodriguez      6.23% (161 of 2,583)      2003             2017

OF Andre Dawson       4.58% (121 of 2,642)      1995-96        2010

OF Tim Raines            3.86% (98 of 2,536)        2002              2017

C Mike Piazza             0.26% (5 of 1,944)          1998              2016 

GoodellROGER GOODELL, WHAT A COWARD!: The NFL commissioner needs to rethink his weekend plans, change his flight, and get his ass over to Foxborough on Sunday. He is hiding from New England Patriots fans, who loathe him over the whole Deflategate thing. He doesn't need to sit among them. He be encased high in a suite as always. But he needs to be there and take the reaction like a man. Instead he'll be in Atlanta for the second week in a row. I have defended Goodell at times, more than most in the media. But he's wrong on this. Weak, weak!

Poll result: Bring on a Packers-Patriots Super Bowl, please: With NFL down to its final four, we asked which of four possible Super Bowl matchups you'd most want to watch, and it was Packers vs. Patriots on top with 41.8 percent. After that it was Packers-Steelers 25.7%, Falcons-Steelers 19.9%, and Falcons-Patriots 12.6%. combined team totals were: Packers 67.5%, Patriots 54.4%, Steelers 45.6% and Falcons 32.4%.

THE LATEST 'BACK IN MY DAY': THE DEATH OF THE CIRCUS: There's a few seconds of unrelated jibberish here before the BIMD kicks in. Warning: Animal-rights folks might want to muster whatever sense of humor they have before watching this:

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 17, 2017

NFL: 4 teams left, 4 Super Bowl matchups possible. Which would you most want to watch? New poll. Last day to vote!; plus NFL Final Four through Dolphins/Tannehill prism, Radio Tuesday, the wedding crasher & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

Wedding1) It is TUESDAY, JANUARY 17. Honoring the memory of civil rights giant Martin Luther King on MLK Day yesterday. He'd be 87 had he not been killed by a sniper on April 4, 1968 at age 39. 2) Still can't believe my older son Christopher is a married man! Congrats again to Chris and his beautiful bride Christie on their wedding Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. So happy for them. Pictured: Myself alongside a wedding crasher later identified as Dan LeBatard. 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): NFL divisional-round picks and poll, Hot Button Top  10, your UM/Braun verdict, The List, Bitter Mickey/MNF video & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

It's Radio Tuesday!: I'm back in-studio today with the Dan LeBatard Show With Stugotz, airing locally on 790 The Ticket from 8:55 a.m. to 1 p.m., and nationally on ESPN Radio from 10-1. National show also simulcasts on TV on ESPNU. Or is it ESPN 2 now, I can never remember.

NFL's Final Four through a Dolphins prism: Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, Canton-bound and having great seasons. Matt Ryan, having an MVP year. Ben Roethlisberger, dynamic gunslinger as always. These are the NFL's Final Four quarterbacks. It invites a Dolfan to (again) wonder if Ryan Tannehill is good enough, or close enough to being great. That's my new column. Click on Is Tannehill Close Enough to Great? to read.

Select other recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

AfcnfcNFL FINAL FOUR: WHICH SUPER BOWL MATCHUP WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO WATCH?: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game and New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC title will funnel into an intriguing Super Bowl matchup no matter what it is. Of the four possible matchups, any one of them suggests an entertaining, high-scoring game. But you can only prefer one. Only one can be the game you'd most want to watch. So. Which is it? Take a dip in our poll.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

January 12, 2017

The Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings at midseason (40 games); plus are we OK with PEDs guy Ryan Braun at UM baseball banquet? Last day to vote!; also, Vance Joseph, Bitter Mickey/BIMD, Saban's tears, UM football ranked No. 16 & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, JANUARY 12. Holed up at Friday Page Headquarters today divining my NFL divisional-round playoff picks. Anybody got any extra luck I can borrow? 2) Happy anniversary this week to my wonderful wife, the greatest person I have ever known. Love you! 3) Shameless Plug Alert! Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century makes the perfect shoulda-bought-it-for-Christmas-but-it's-not-too-late gift for every Dolfan you know. Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins eliminated in Pittsburgh with season-ending DSM poll, Hot Button Top 10, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

Bitter Mickey/Back In My Day double-play from LeBatard Show: Click here for Tuesday's show podcast. The Bitter Mickey/BIMD back-to-back kicks in around the 38-minute mark.

Hurricanes 16th in (very) early 2017 college football Top 25: It's out from Mark Schlabach on ESPN.com. Click here to read. UM was ranked No. 20 in the final Associated Press poll for this season, the Canes' first year-end Top 25 ranking since 2009. Also, UM has 33-1 national-title odds via Bovada, tied for 11th best.

DSM final rating best since 2008: The Dolphins season ended with consecutive losses including Sunday's in the playoffs; still, the season-ending Dolfan Satisfaction Meter rating of 76.2 percent is the second-best in the nine-year history of our postgame polls, and best since '08. See the previous blogpost for complete week-by-week results and year-by-year totals. 

Dolphins-Steelers game column, select other recent columns: When Playoffs Become the Norm Again, off Sunday's eliminating loss, on when you'll know the Dolphins are truly back. A Year Of Heartache, But Then A Smile, in review of South Florida's 2016 sports year. Also: An Orange Bowl Classic. Road Back Starts With Bowl Win. Missing Dwyane Wade.

UPDATED: "THE LUDDITE'S ANTI-ANALYTICS HEAT MVP STANDINGS" (MIDSEASON/40 GAMES)Points. Rebounds. Assists. That's it. With tongue only partly in cheek, we go old-school, strip it down, combine the Original Big Three statistical categories, and introduce a running, cumulative race for 2016-17 Heat team MVP. We bring you updated standings at five-game intervals. With Miami now 11-29 after last night's loss at Golden State, here's The Luddite's eighth installment, with 35-game rank in parentheses:

LudditeThe Luddite's Anti-Analytics Heat MVP Standings (Midseason/40 games):

1. Hassan Whiteside (1)      1,177

2. Goran Dragic (2)               937

3. Tyler Johnson (3)            802

4. James Johnson (4)         678

5. Josh Richardson (5)        483

6. Dion Waiters (7)                393

7. Rodney McGruder (8)      385

8. Justise Winslow (6)         355

9. Willie Reed (11)                 329

10. Wayne Ellington (9)      284

Others: Josh McRoberts 232, Derrick Williams 226, Luke Babbitt 200, Udonis Haslem 61.

IS DOLPHINS LOSING DC JOSEPH A BIG DEAL? (NAH): Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph leaves the Dolphins after one season to become Denver Broncos head coach. I guess the Broncos were not watching Sunday as Joseph's Miami defense gave up scoring drives of 85, 90 and 83 yards to Pittsburgh on the playoff game's first three series. During the season his unit ranked 29th in total defense, 15th in pass defense, 30th in run defense and 18th in points allowed, despite being one of only seven teams with two Pro Bowl defensive starters.   

IS RYAN BRAUN THE RIGHT CHOICE TO SPEAK AT CANES BASEBALL BANQUET?: I think I'm sort of against this but don't feel too strongly. I guess that makes me conflicted. I wonder if you Braunare. (Hence, the poll that follows, because I'm curious). Former Miami Hurricanes baseball great Ryan Braun (pictured), now prominently of the Milwaukee Brewers, will be the featured speaker Feb. 10 at the team's annual preseason First Pitch banquet. The negative? Braun, of course, was implicated in the Biogenesis scandal over performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Many will recall he was suspended 65 games in 2013 for violating MLB's drug policy. Not saying that should be a life sentence on his reputation, but is he the best choice just a few years later to be the star attraction at your preseason banquet? UM's baseball stadium of course is partly named in honor of another steroids guy, Alex Rodriguez, but that's contractual, and tied to a major donation. Jim Morris' program was under no such obligation to invite Braun. It  makes me wonder if UM's athletic director signed off on this and if the university president is comfortable with it. Right now, though, it's your turn. Take a dip in our poll.

UglyTHE BAD NEWS, MIAMI? HEAT AT GOLDEN STATE. COVER YOUR EYES!: Update: Heat with a credible 107-95 loss last night at Golden State. The Good Whiteside (28 points, 20 rebounds) appeared. You know it's a bad season when you see the good in a 12-point loss. Original post: I guess it wasn't bad enough that the Dolphins took a crap Sunday after finally making the playoffs, so now the reeling Miami plays at mighty Golden State tonight, and what would have been a terrific matchup in, say, 2013, now is hard to envision being anything but season-low, lopsided-ugly. The good news: Doesn't start 'til 10:30, so much of South Florida won't bother to see it. Heat, 16-point underdogs, are having a train-wreck season at 11-28, evidently with the entire roster on the trading block, while 24-karat Golden State is 32-6 after adding Kevin Durant to Stephon Curry. Let's see Reid and Fiorentino try to put a positive spin on this one!

SadsabanTHE GOOD NEWS? BUT AT LEAST NICK SABAN LOST!: College football showed the NFL how it's done Monday night. We sat through four NFL first-round playoff games decided by a combined 121-45 score, none of them close or particularly interesting to watch. Then, last night, the CFP finale in Tampa gave us Clemson 35, Alabama 31, a compelling comeback victory that dethroned Nick Saban -- which alone made it gratifying for Saban-hating South Florida slow to forgive Nick for lying and baling on the Dolphins. So, as tonight's Heat game gets sad, So Fla, bright up by picturing Saban's abject disappointment as his kingdom quaked a bit.

Revisit our blog often because we update and add to our latest posts throughout the day.

Twitter @gregcote

December 30, 2016

Canesfan Satisfaction Meter: 97.2% (Final). Record set for highest season-ending approval rating; plus UM ends 10-year bowl win drought, finishes 9-4, awaits Kaaya decision; also, Greg Cote bobblehead, your word on Dolphins' preferred playoff foe & more

GREG COTE'S RANDOM EVIDENCE BLOG: MIAMI. SPORTS. AND BEYOND.

1) It is THURSDAY, DECEMBER 29. I'm back up at Friday Page World Headquarters begging my regular-season-ending NFL picks. Make me smart for a day, Lord. 2) R.I.P. Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, mother dying one day after her daughter. Surreal. 3) Shameless Plug Alert: Our new Miami Dolphins book on the club's first half-century is now available -- a perfect late Christmas gift for any Dolfan you know! Click on Fins At 50 to order through Amazon, Barnes & Noble or elsewhere. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Dolphins preferred-playoff-opponent poll, The List & more. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Facebook, InstagramVine, Periscope and Snapchat.

MebobbleMe, bobblehead: One of the least-expected, most bizarre and therefore best gifts I got for Christmas this year was a Greg Cote Bobblehead my wonderfully strange wife had made. It is pictured. It looks like me ... if I were younger, slimmer, better-looking and had more hair. Which makes it perfect!  

Hurricanes: The road 'back' must start with a bowl win: UM was 0-6 in bowl games since winning its last in 2006, before last night's 31-14 Russell Athletic Bowl victory over West Virginia. Click on Road Back Starts With Bowl Win to read my latest column. Select recent other columns: The Gift Of Winning, on Dolphins rewarding their fans with a happy holiday for a change. Also: Missing Dwyane Wade, Football Town Strikes Back.

Canes in-game blog, postgame thoughts: Find our live in-game blog and postgame thoughts from tonight directly below the latest, season-final Canesfan Satisfaction Meter poll.

CANESFAN SATISFACTION METER: 97.2% (SEASON FINAL): Results are certified in the latest and 2016 season final Canesfan Satisfaction Meter postgame poll, and they show 97.2 percent overall approval -- the combination of "very" and "somewhat" satisfied votes -- in the wake of Wednesday's Csm31-14 victory vs. West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando putting the Hurricanes' final season record at 9-4 and ending UM's 10-year, six-game bowl victory drought. This wraps up the eighth season of our blog's CSM postgame polls, which are your invitation after every Hurricanes football game to vote on your overall satisfaction with the team and season in a continuing weekly gauge of how UM fans are feeling. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest you consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the program's direction and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. Because this was our last 2016 DSM poll we suggested you place special emphasis on the season as a whole. Results are certified official the morning after one full day of voting. In this case that was be around 9 a.m. today/Friday. Thanks to the thousands who participated in our 2016 CSM polls and we'll see you again next season!

2016 Canesfan Satisfaction Meter

G1: 97.2% following 70-3 victory vs. Florida A&M

G2: 91.9% following 38-10 victory vs. Florida Atlantic

G3: 98.2% following 45-10 victory at Appalachian State

G4: 97.9% following 35-21 victory at Georgia Tech

G5: 58.3% following 20-19 loss vs. Florida State

G6: 24.0% following 20-13 loss vs. North Carolina

G7: 20.3% following 37-16 loss at Virginia Tech

G8: 16.0% following 30-27 loss at Notre Dame

G9: 76.6% following 51-28 victory vs. Pitt

G10: 82.0% following 34-14 victory at Virginia

G11: 92.9% following 27-13 victory at North Carolina State

G12: 95.9% following 40-21 victory vs. Duke

Bowl/Final: 97.2% following 31-24 victory vs. West Virginia

CSM year-by-year final season results: 2016--97.2% (following 9-4 season); 2015--20.1% (8-5); 2014--2.7% (6-7); 2013--16.1% (9-4); 2012--80.9% (7-5); 2011--22.1% (6-6); 2010--4.2% (7-6); 2009--41.7% (9-4).

BOWL: HURRICANES 31, WEST VIRGINIA 14: ALL ABOUT ENDINGS TONIGHT AS MIAMI SEES ITS BOWL DROUGHT END, NOW HOPES THE KAAYA ERA DOESN'T: Postgame thoughts: Miami's first bowl win since 2006 after an 0-6 stretch tonight was sweet partly because it began so badly. West Virginia jumped out front and Brad Kaaya and the UM offense were horrible. But UM's defense kept being really good as Kaaya found his game and got hot, finishing with 282 yards and four TD passes. The result put a bow on a 9-4 season, Mark Richt's first here, that should be good enough to see Miami ranked in the final, post-bowl Top 25 poll. Now, though, UM awaits Kaaya's stay-or-go decision, which is expected by the weekend. To ESPN Radio he said, "I don't have an answer yet. I have to do some soul searching." It's a close call. I think he should stay. We'll know soon ..... 4Q: Another fourth-down stop for Canes. Almost time to start counting the win ..... 3Q: Big fourth-down stop for UM defense. Such a momentum shift since that first quarter ... The U's lead now 31-14 on 30-yard FG ... WVU within 28-14 on 4-yard Howard run ... Miami 28-7 now on Kaaya 23-yard TD toss to Njoku. Kaaya has been fantastic since his slow opening quarter ..... Halftime thoughts: Rarely have I seen a team, an offense, a quarterback, go from an awful first quirter to a dominant second like the Canes have tonight. Wow. ..... 2Q: Berrios 26-yard scoring pass from Kaaya for 21-7 just before half. Kaaya awful in 1Q, sublime in second ... Canes 14-7 now late in half on Kaaya 3-yard flip to Lewis. Big turnaround for Miami offense ... Boom! Just like that. It's 7-7 on Kaaya's pass that Ahmmon Richards turns into 51-yard scoring play ... The blessing in disguise for UM at 7-0 down? The Kaaya we are seeing tonight is not NFL-ready, and the NFL is watching ... Fortunate. Penalty wipes out Kaaya interception ... Bettors on the "under" are feeling good early, with the o/u around 56 at kickoff ..... 1Q: Miami doing nada offensively in first Q ... WVU 7-0 on McKoy 6-yard TD run. Mountaineers ranked with a better record but underdogs here -- that's big incentive ... UM's Norton big fumble recovery on opening series; WVU was on the move in Canes territory. Alas, Miami soon punts ... Seemed start of game might be picked up late by ESPN because Pitt-Northwestern ran long, but timing turned out perfect ..... Original post: One month and two days since ending its regular season at 8-4 with four straight wins, Miami will see if that momentum carries over this evening vs. Umwvu10-2 West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, in an ESPN broadcast with the odd starting time of 5:30 p.m. UM is playing the highest-ranked opponent (Mountaineers are No. 16) of any unranked team, yet WVU is a 3 1/2-point betting underdog despite its ranking and better record. Perhaps because UM leads the all-time series, 16-3. Miami likely would finish ranked in the low Top 25 in the final post-bowl Bradkaayapolls with a win to complete Mark Richt's first season. As important, UM seeks an end to an 0-6 bowl run in a drought dating to 2006 -- the predominant theme from a Canes vantage in the buildup to this game. (Click on Road Back Starts With Bowl Win for my column previewing tonight's game). Of course, the biggest result to come from this game -- bigger than a win or loss, at least to me -- will be quarterback Brad Kaaya's decision on whether to return for his senior season or enter the NFL Draft. It's pretty much assumed tight end David Njoku will turn pro [update: he did]. Many think Kaaya (pictured) will, too, although I am unconvinced. With no consensus that he'd be a first-round pick, I think Brad would be smart to return to UM, and I think he still might. Seventeen UM seniors will be playing their last game for The U, Corn Elder, Stacy Coley and ironman lineman Danny Isidora most notable among them. As for the game itself, the result will turn on how Kaaya handles a very aggressive West Virginia defense that loves to blitz. Mountaineers forced 25 opponent turnovers this season including a nation-leading (tied) eight interceptions by cornerback Rasul Douglas. I see Kaaya as experienced enough to beat the blitz, this defense and this Big 12 opponent. By the way, if Kaaya goes nuts he'll have an outside shot to challenge Bernie Kosar's 32-year-old UM season record of 3,642 passing yards. Kaaya would need 393 today to break that long-standing mark. My pick: Hurricanes, 31-23.

Poll result: Dolfans hoping for the easier game in Houston: We asked which of two possible opponents you'd rather see the Dolphins face to open the playoffs, and overwhelmingly you picked the easier foe over the sexier game, with Houston Texans drubbing Pittsburgh Steelers by 59.7 percent to 15.2%. The other 25.1% voted, "Either. It's the playoffs!" 

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Twitter @gregcote